Year Published : 1996
Genre : Romance, Suspense, Mystery
Mood : Surprisingly dark and twisty.
Edition : Kindle eBook
# of Pages : 384 pages (Paperback)
Roanna Davenport was raised a wealthy orphan on her grandmother’s magnificent Alabama estate, Davencourt, where she had a passion for horses, a genius for trouble, and a deep love for her cousin, Webb. But everyone expected Webb to marry their ravishing cousin, Jessie. When he did, Roanna’s desire became no more than the stuff of dreams — until the night Jessie was found bludgeoned to death.
After the shocking murder of his wife, Webb left for Arizona, abandoning the legacy that he had once believed was all he wanted. But then an all-grown-up Roanna walked into a dingy bar in Nogales to bring him home; the mischievous sprite he had known ten years earlier was no more. Gone, too, was her fire. In its place was ice that melted at his touch. Webb is drawn back to Davencourt, to Roanna, and to the killer that once destroyed his life and waits only for the chance to finish the job….
Warning for creepy and old-school romance here, replete with taboos. So this is a romance / suspense novel from the 1990s, I’d been curious about it for years due to the strange premise as illustrated above.
Starting with the good, I like that this novel doesn’t go down a conventional path. The plot is just outrageous and unlike what most people would expect when considering romance novels. It’s clear the author had some risky, hard-to-sell ideas and I’m typically drawn to that sort of ambition.
The writing overall is definitely above average but superfluous details are abundant.
I liked that the storyline follows all the main characters from childhood, then their teen years, then another time skip into adulthood. There are noticeable differences in the personalities of these characters (especially the main pairing) throughout the years. They’re strongly influenced by some of the shocking events that occur along the way. The presence of this kind of growth and longevity- even if it is an illusion of longevity- adds depth to the characters and their relationships. Much more so than the insta-love between strangers that so many romance novels have.
Now for the bad. There is some really gross stuff in this one. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that the storyline follows an old-fashioned and wealthy family who routinely marry off pairs of cousins not unlike how royal families have been known to do things. This family is also hiding some pretty dark secrets. Confession, I don’t mind faux pas in romance. Such things can challenge the characters and easily add tension and turmoil to a story. But this one has some lurid details that go too far. Also, I was expecting a kind of haunting, gothic atmosphere that makes it clear how messed up the characters are (think V.C. Andrews.) but that’s definitely not the case here.
The main character, Roanna, is fairly nuanced. She was orphaned as a child but retains a sort of sunny and bright disposition during the childhood and teen sections. After a horrifying event, she is left damaged, listless and sad. I found the reasoning for her changes in personality to be adequate, but she’s not much of a proactive character and it can be depressing to watch her. The romance is slow burn. When the couple finally gets together it’s a sort of hard won victory and quite intense. The level of description is shocking for an older romance novel- more explicit than some of the New Adult romances being released today. Some of the passages are very old-school/dated, and unintentionally hilarious though.
So there is also a murder mystery plot line. I was not expecting it to be grand, but I wish it were handled with more care. The reveal is saved until the last possible moment and leaves behind a lot of vexing questions. That said, I did ponder it for longer than expected and come up with alternate theories. So all in all, I’d say this book was fair at juggling the romance and mystery/suspense.
Overall Rating – 7/10
Why You Should Try It – If you want an old-school romantic suspense novel that is rife with drama and bucks convention. If you end up liking the main couple, their slow burn romance is developed impeccably. No insta-love.
Critiques – There is a giant estate and a creepy family in this book and yet it doesn’t have any sort of gothic horror vibe? What a missed opportunity. The taboo romance (and multiple taboo storylines) are more icky than provocative.Shades of Twilight (Amazon Link, Click To View A Preview)